Coronary heart disease, often called ischaemic heart disease is a serious condition and its symptoms include chest pain (angina), heart attacks and heart failure. Not every sufferer presents the same symptoms however, and some patients may not experience any symptoms before a CHD diagnosis.
While CHD is incurable, it can be treated and the effects regulated making heart attacks less likely. With a combination of lifestyle changes, medications and in some cases surgery, the effects of CHD can be reduced and functioning of the heart can even be improved.
After a CHD diagnosis, it will often be recommended that the sufferer change their lifestyle slightly. Giving up smoking, eating healthier and exercising regularly will all help reduce the chances of have further heart problems, such as heart attacks.
There are several types of medication that can be prescribed to ease CHD in patients and they usually aim to either widen blood vessels or reduce blood pressure. Some of these medications do have side effects, so it may take a while to find the right one to suit each patient.
Beta-blockers are a common heart medication and one many will have heard of. Often used to treat high blood pressure and prevent angina, they work by blocking a particular hormone in the body. This helps slow the heart down and improves blood flow.
A patient may be prescribed a medicine called statins if they suffer from a high cholesterol level. Statins block the formation of cholesterol and increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors in the liver. This helps remove the amount of LDL cholesterol in the body which helps slow the progression of CHD and decreases the chance of having a heart attack.
Other medicines which may be prescribed to treat CHD include; antiplatelets, which help thin the blood and prevent clots forming, calcium channel blockers, which relaxes the muscles that form the arteries and making them wider to reduce blood pressure, and diuretics, which flush excess water and salt from the body.
If the symptoms of CHD cannot be controlled by medication then surgery may be required in order to open up, or bypass completely, blocked arteries.
One of the main surgical procedures used to treat blocked arteries is coronary angioplasty, also known as percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA), or balloon angioplasty. During this type of surgery a balloon is inserted into the blocked artery which pushes the fatty tissue on the artery walls outwards, allowing for more blood flow. A wire mesh tube, known as a stent, is often placed inside the artery to hold it open. Drug-eluting stents can also be used. These stents emit drugs inside the body to prevent the artery walls closing again. PCI is often a planned procedure but is often used in emergencies when a patient is suffering a heart attack.
Coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) is more commonly known as heart bypass surgery. It is performed on CHD sufferers whose arteries have become narrow or completely blocked. Surgeons will insert a blood vessel between the aorta and a part of the coronary artery which is beyond the blocked section. This allows the blood to flow around the blocked or narrowed part of the artery.
In extreme cases of CHD, where the heart has suffered too much damage to be repaired or is unable to pump sufficient blood around the body (heart failure), a heart transplant may be required.
There are many other surgical options available, and a coronary specialist will be able to discuss all of them and help patients find the procedure that will best improve their individual symptoms and condition.
The information provided on how to treat coronary heart disease has been provided on behalf of London Cardiovascular Clinic, a private cardiology clinic offering assessments for a diverse of symptons.